The folly of saving with Malawian banks

When I walked into the banking hall of National Bank – Mzuzu Service Centre – last week Friday, it was just a few minutes after lunch – around 12:16 after mid-day. I joined a troop of men and women and professionals and non-professionals all wanting to do this transaction and the other.

National Bank of Malawi

National Bank of Malawi

Apparently, an uncle of mine had sent me some money for my school errands and I had hastily rushed to the bank to withdraw. It was not a lot of money; that is, if I am to compare with the figures others, in front or behind me, were dealing with.

I had come to collect just K20 000.

But there was a problem. No. Let me say, I had a problem. I did not have a ‘valid’ identity card with me, and, therefore, there was no way I was going to withdraw any money from my savings account; a bank teller of medium height clad in a cream white shirt and a matching tie told be matter-of-factly.

That was after I had surrendered an official introduction letter from my school – Mzuzu University – duly signed and stamped by the Office of the Dean of Students.

I lost my wallet, I told him, in which all my cards were, including the ATM card.

Noticing my exasperation, and perhaps reading from my face and realizing how desperate I was in getting the money, the teller – one Dominic – referred me to the service center’s savings department, saying he would be in a position to help me if only they were able to identify me and give me a ‘go ahead’ with the transaction.

I did not argue. For two reasons. Firstly, it was because the teller was very right in not helping me because I did not have a ‘valid’ identity card as per the bank’s rules. He was protecting his job. The second reason I did not argue was his proposition that I go to the savings department. His suggestion, actually, had cooled down my heart like what cold water does to a worn-out journeying man.

I was sure they were going to easily identify me considering the fact that I have been a customer for about three years now, and for the fact that during the time I was opening the savings account with them, they had taken photos of me which they said, at the time, they would keep in their system for easy identification.

So, I walked across the banking hall to my far-right. On the counter that was empty was a young lady probably in her late twenties, with a smile so sumptuous. But I was in no smiling mood.

I wanted to have my money.

After stating my case, and showing her the letter of introduction and what the teller had advised, she walked towards her boss’ desk just behind her – apparently, her head in the savings department.

She came back with bad news for me. I had to go to the police station to report the loss of my wallet and the cards and then come back to the bank for help.

Are you not on MO626, she asked. No, I answered briefly. I was furious. It was way after one o’clock in the afternoon now.

Kindly enough, the police officer I met in the investigative department of Mzuzu Police Station was gentleman enough. He did not take long to understand my problem, and in the shortest period processed a report for me.

But when I got back to the back, I was faced with more problems. The same lady teller who had instructed me with the bank thing was still seated right behind her counter. She remembered me as I walked closer and without exchanging even a single word she got the documents I handed her and walked to her boss.

It was not her talking to me again as I expected. It was now her boss. He told me outright that even with the police report I could not get the money because it too was not a valid document for me to withdraw cash.

But wait a minute, there was an official stamp there from the police, and duly signed.

I asked what next then since I had told them I did not have an ATM card or any ID because I had lost them accidentally. I’d told him also that I had applied for a new card at my school and I could not get one until after one or two weeks. I needed the money but, I said staunchly.

But, like someone who had never gone to school for his job, he simply stared – blank.

Frustrated, I walked up the hall to the account relations manager suit who, surprisingly, did not take time to understand my predicament. A Mr. Chiumia, for that was his name, simply asked for the documents I had, punched a few keys on his laptop, called my Dean of Students for confirmation and then asked me to follow him.

In less than ten minutes, we were in the premium banking suite where I was given my money – K20 000 –, my own money after so much a struggle.

Ever since I left the bank that Friday, I have always probed myself with questions on why we must be slaves for banking with our banks. Why should a bank fail to identify their own customers? What is the use of the so many sample signatures they ask us to provide? What is the use of the photos they get when we open the accounts?

When I talked to a few hostel mates, they told me similar situations. It is actually not just National Bank. The other banks do it also.

A colleague told me that his bank, Standard Bank, had told him to wait for at least a week to get back a mere K5 000. Apparently, he had used his visa card to get the money from an NBS Bank ATM facility which had debited his account, but the ATM had not released the money. So, this colleague had to wait for over a week to have his money back. What a shame about the efficiency of our banks!

It is folly to save with Malawian banks. Sure it is!

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41 thoughts on “The folly of saving with Malawian banks”

  1. Chilucha says:

    If I was a Bank manager, I could read all these comments and strategise on the way to go. This is a free customer satisfaction survey which can help you improve things. I am one of the dissapointed customer of Standard Bank who was told to go ZOmba from Blantyre just to replace my ATM card only to be told in ZOmba that the ATMs are made in Blantyre.

    I don’t get suprised why FDH bank has grown so fast. Most people belong to these banks not out of choice but they dont have any good altenatives. Wake up banks

  2. selfish decision says:

    Better bank mkhonde.These so called bank never benefit their customers after all.
    Our were right to put their money in their houses like the Asians.

  3. Chingolopiyo says:

    I want to close my accounts, firstly NBS becoz of poor ATM Network which has weekend schedule of no network

  4. Balamanthu says:

    I feel sorry for the student and the hustle he had to go through.Whilst I dont condone the Bank for what it did, it just goes to show one thing which our politicians are also culpable of: DISHONESTY.This is the biggest problem the country has that almost 70% of the country have become experts in telling lies, pretending to be what we are not and the Bankers in wanting to protect their customers deposits have also understood the environment in which they are operating.As such, when one goes to the Bank, yu are presumed a suspect unless you can prove otherwise which is what the student did.Tiyambe kunena zoona and should learn to trust each other and running accounts or businesses will be easy.It is worse for education guys how they can dupe each other.Nanji aku College, they are worse!

  5. Shoram says:

    Bank bank bank. The story is one-sided. Someone used the trick and upon the teller informing the manager, and with approval from the HQ, the money in a few milions was disbursed, only to find out later that he was a thief. Guess what? Only a few tellers got chopped off and the authorising personnel is there put. Where is justice here?

  6. Malawi banks are not for diasporas. Sad because diasporas are big aidas. Look at Filippines their forex comes from Filippines living abroad. It is the same with Malawi. If you count how much money we diaspors have sent to our relatives. These money is in forex, the only different it is not donors money so it is not countable o those who are government. I have problems to withdraw my money in Malawi bank despite they have my photo of passport, which is foreign. My account go back to Kamuzu Time. There was no problem. When I asked Stan to teansfer money for school fees for my nice there. The girl transfered to another account not the one she was given in Blantyre according to her but did not mention which account and whos account was. My niece account is in LL. At NBS I can not withdraw unless I have someone to indetify me. I have beene 1975, and had built my house with mortgage of theirs. I just wonder if these personel ar compentant or got jobs through back doors. Or relatives. People are not serious with their jobs. I would not transfer my forex to such banks. My friends from other countries tells me it is ok in their countries like Kenya and Zambia. I wonder why we Malawians ar lik that. The banks ar loosing money people now have Bank Nkondes. Who want to borrow money or save in such bank where they will humilate you or you will be like a begger. I would ask DIASPORAS to open our own forex bank with personels who has lived in Europe who knows what is cusomer care means.

  7. Ayaya kumudzi says:

    For a long time now I believe a bank teller has been withdrawing money from my account secretly.

  8. Katong'ongo says:

    Standard bank are the worst thieving operatives. The moment you deposit money in your account, swiftly they fix their eyes on it and ensure they reap a handsome portion thereof in the name of service fee, mid-year service fee, account charges, monthly interest, adjustment fee, good morning fee, why are you looking at me fee, mapwevupwevu fee, masuku transaction and the list goes on and on. You dare issue a cheque to someone, and they hold on to your cheque until they notice that there is no money any more in your account, then they call you to top up before they secretly charge you a penalty for a Returned Drawer (RD).

  9. simbolo yane ndi maupo muchanya says:

    This guys must be serious ! With me it was salary and Iwas not even allowed to apply for anew ATM card because they were demanding one of those lost document not an ID from my company or even alletter from the sallaries office from my company! Why do you take our photos and signature? What was the use of that finger print you take when we were updating our account info? You are expoting the customers?

  10. noniwa says:

    I very much agree especially on refunding money that was debitted but ever dismbersed when using an ATM on another banks’machine. Actually your friend was lucky to have the money after a week coz as far as I know some get their money after three weeks or so. Its pretty stupid that these banks are fond of introducing half baked products for the mere reason that some developed countries are doing it. Its absolute nonsense. You go to the bank to get money only to come bank with nothing but additional misery…

  11. kphiri says:

    one bank officer had to help a customer with a similar case. customer had lost hid id (license, passport etc) as he claimed they were stolen. he brought a well stamped and signed police report. customer was given the money.

    zotsatira zake? customer was a thief. the bank employee was dismissed. pano the then bank employee akungoyenda mtaunimu chifukwa amaopa kukhumudzitsa customer.

  12. Chikopa says:

    Oliver Twist ukuti chani kodi? Kapena ndiwe Branch Manager was Mzuzu NBM Branch? Zip up you dick-head.

  13. galuwapananji says:

    Umafuna ukabe I we, mbava, bank imeneyi ndi imodzi mwa ma bank otsogola ngati usakufuna uzikasungitsa ku bank mkhonde

  14. Nyanja says:

    Just go mobile banking like in Kenya and Zimbabwe and you will feel sorry for these incompetent Banks. Use the latest technology on your phone and you will see Banks fold up. Don’t you worry their demise is near !

  15. Oliver Twist says:

    The main issue is about identification, the rest you can talk later. The subject matter should not be diveted to accussing Banks of their malfunctions. Each and every bank has it’s principles. You don’t open an account to expect that next time when you lose your card or ID, then the photos presented during opening will be used for your benefit. Never!! Those documents are used for their own security purposes and not to give you money when you present yourself as a figurehead. Go all over the world and benchmark with our Banks. The system is the same. Let’s work up Malawians inorder to live up to international starndads. Frauds & Forgeries have gone high. For poor customer service, you can contact the relevant Banks for complaints to be undertaken.

    1. Nyanja says:

      KYC. Means Know Your Customers. At any given time ‘know your customer’ As a Bank why not use biometric identification ! The business world is changing. I have received money from the diaspora by mobile phone platform. US$1000 limit per day.
      This is called Financial inclusion of the marginalised. I personally think that the Banks should go to the people rather than the people going to the Bank. In Kenya it’s working!

  16. Hibihibisi says:

    The issue here has two sides first and foremost customer service and other hand, safeguarding clients money following bank’s procedure. The bank was supposed to do the following things considering K20,000 was involved and less prone to fraud:
    First, the teller was supposed to check in the system whether his acoount had his image.

    Second, the customer was supposed to be duly interviewed to ascertain whether the presenter of the withdraw instrument was the rightful owner.

    Third, the bank official was supposed to make use of the system based number submitted by the customer prior to opening the account.

    Fourth, upon satisfying the above stated steps the funds were supposed to be availed to the customer.

    On the part of the valuable customer, he should always factor the following things as cash withdraw realm:

    First, the bank is there is safeguard funds of its depositors. The bank is not there to deny a customer to access funds from his/her account or delaying the cash payment process. In some instances, some fraudsters tend to pretend to be the owner of a certain account and sometimes they tend to shout in the bank claiming to be the lawful owner of the account. If the bank official rush throught the process for the sake of customer service and the unthinkable to happen interms of fraudulent withdraw. The bank is compelled to refund the funds to the customer. On psychology aspect, once trust is betrayed it cannot be revised in the mind of the cusomer.

    Second, the banking halls tend to host regular, rare comers and walk in customers on a daily basis.
    (a). The regular customers are supposed to cash outright since they are regular comers to the bank.
    (b). Walk in customers and rare comers, the bank officials are supposed to tread carefully in the course of handling encashment process in tactful and polite manner.

    This is a symbiotic relationship not a parasitical relationship. Surely bank lean up customers’ deposits to enable them loan out funds to borrowers and the customer depend upon the bank to safeguard their deposits

    1. Bwande says:

      well said. but the most important thing is that the bank failed to apply the other possible and easy means yet applicable means to identify their customer. Things like a secret, first and second name of the mother’s maiden name, date of birth, phone number, etc would have easily identified this innocent soul. Here chinakula ndi arrogance on the part of the bank rather than safeguarding customer savings. In other words the bank staff were incompetent, rude and unprofessional

    2. Che Billiat says:

      The comment is insightful and had it been banks do adopt wht u hav said in this lecture. Superior customer service could have been achieved.

  17. Chimwemwe Banda says:

    Here is another complaint about NBM-Mzuzu.

    Someone sent me a cheque for the US which I deposited to my account. The bank then sent the cheque back to the US for it to have its own account there credited. Fair enough! Once my donor saw that the money had been taken from his account (and had therefore immediately gone into NBM’s at its corresponding bank) then he sent a word to me. After a couple of days I went in to NBM to try to withdraw my own money, only to be told that Head Office in Blantyre had not yet given approval for my account to be credited. The story was that its US bank had not informed it that its account there had been credited. This of course is nonsense, since a check via on-line banking would have verified that its account had been credited. This went on for a week until finally my own NBM account was credited.

    What is going on in a case like that? Is it NBM which has free use of my money for a week, or is it individuals who are secretly borrowing it for their own dishonest purposes?

  18. dadaboma says:

    Banks do that to protect your money. I also meet similar hiccups with banks, but I understand them because there should be no shortcuts with money.

  19. i'm the guy in the ma units video says:

    sorry for the hassle but you are stupid. umataya bwanji wallet? ine chibadwile sindinatayeko wallet, phone olo makiyi ndipo sindimvetsa kuti mumataya bwanji. jack up man!

  20. CHACHACHA says:


  21. Mzekezeke says:

    There is nothing new to say as you people have said it all. The banks are useless. Standard bank is on top of my list. Then NB and NBS. Indebank should not exist and MSB does niot know their mission.

  22. Makamuchiwo says:

    The Folly of Saving with Malawian Banks.

    I also had this experience with NBS Bank. We have an Ordinary Savings Account with the Bank. Upon opening the Account, we indicated on the Application Forms that two authorised persons should sign on the withdrawal slip in order to withdraw cash.

    One day, I went to the bank to withdraw MK30, 000. When I handed the withdrawal slip bearing two authorised signatures to the teller, he told me that I cannot get the cash unless I go back and call the other signatory. I became furious because I felt it as a joke! Why should two people go to the bank together to cash a mere MK30, 000. By the way, when you go to a Malawian Bank for financial transactions, you spend about 1.30 hours on the cue before you can be assisted. It is indeed a folly!

  23. Kabilaboza Kabuka says:

    Well done Pious for exposing their incompetence in dealing with customers. They forget that they are there because we are there as customers. Pamalawi pano zithu sizikuyenda, kuvutika popeza makobidi, pokayika ku bank kuvutika ndi mizele, pokatenga ndiye chiphinjoso.

  24. No Laughing Matter says:

    Banks are taking their customers for granted. Am keeping mine under the pillow. Why do I have to justify everything with my hard earned cash. Akagwere

  25. khezzie says:

    u t very right Mr. Nyondo
    we r like slaves with our bankers,,, it pains especially when u r a student with so many to concentrate with little parental money

  26. Banker says:

    A similar situation happened to me at Mzimba National Bank. I had travelled all the way from Blantyre using a temporally driving licence. On arrival at Mzimba I needed money to top up my fuel before proceeding to the village. I had my auto teller visa card but the line on the machine was too long. I decided to go inside where the line was reasonably short. Upon reaching the counter I was shocked to be denied access to my money because the temporally driving licence was not, according to them, a valid identity document and neither was my visa card. The teller referred me to the Branch Manager who was equally rude. I produced all sorts of cards like employment card, business cards but the manager was in no mood of listening to reason. There was nothing more I could do but to go to the long line outside hoping the machine was not going to run out of money or breakdown. It is indeed a folly to save with these banks. We only do it because they are a conduit for our salaries.

  27. nduna ya kumwera says:

    Thats why i switched to BIM bank in mozambique…all banks in malawi are useless…amangopitirako uhule ku bank…,sadziwa

  28. Ayobeee de Zobue says:

    Another worst bank is NBS. All banks accept voter registration card but iwo ati ayi. Za ziiiiiii. Bank ya alimi.

  29. Ineyo says:

    Akapolo kwanu komwe

  30. zon says:

    The whole thing is debatable

  31. Mlomwe original says:

    National Bank ndi mbola.
    Go to Chichiri Branch ku Bt you will regret, imagine you stand (sit) pa que for hours waiting to be assisted.
    You find yourself customer no 210 but ma teller alipo only 3 while the rest are at backstore(chizungu chake chasowa) kumangozungulira kkkk

  32. Myao says:


  33. levelheaded says:

    Dude are you still studying, at Mzuni to precise?
    You are a genius young man. Your writing is mouthwatering. Keep it up.

    Fortunately you have mentioned all the banks with a lot of problems in the industry. Standard bank has a problem of this document issues so is National Bank. NBS has abig problem of copying up with morden technology, their ATM machines leave a lot to be desired. You can move around the whole Blantyre only to find that all of them are out of service.
    FMB and FDH are at least trying.

  34. munthu wa munthu says:

    Basi panganizomwezo akulu tsiku luna osapitanso ku bank ma servicea enawa can be replaced ndi aku bank u just need a code ya uyo watumizayo olo sms pa phone basi zii zii good life

  35. Mbuya says:

    Tizingokwilira pansi basi not to be a slave of ur money komanso understanding ya anthu aku bank most of them yochepa kwambiri

  36. Kavuluvulu says:

    Chizungu cha ku MZUNI chimenecho !kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk !

  37. sam says:

    Malawi banks are amongst the most profit making banks they dont care about ife local customers they have been spoiled by RBM regulations which allow them to make huge profits at the expense of poor malawians. Where in the world banks make 25MK profit the difference between the buying and selling rate of Dollar, which is 5%. which is 5% that is higherst in the world, RBM has a soft corner for commercial banks or they must have interests in the profits

  38. Mafulufute says:

    iiii akulu! Njira zonsezi zotumizira ndalama mpaka kupita ku banki chifukwa cha ka twente? Next time use Airtel money, TNM Mpamba(khaya umapezeka kuti?), Post Office kapena aja akulemba tiakazi tokongola aja a Zoona.

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